By MIKE WILLIAMS
Two-way traffic downtown and a town-wide 35 mph speed limit – unless otherwise posted – is on the way in Pulaski, following action Tuesday night by Town Council.
Council voted unanimously to approve both the move from one-way traffic on Main and Third streets to two-way, as well as for a town-wide 35 mph speed limit.
The votes came two weeks after council heard from consultants who advised that two-way traffic can be accomplished on the two key roadways, and that the amount of traffic downtown no longer warrants the use of signal lights at downtown intersections.
The changes won’t come right away, as Town Engineer Bill Pedigo explained to council.
“You understand there are certain ways to go about moving from signal lights.”
Pedigo said you can’t just take the lights down.
“We have to put them on flash for a certain period of time, then bag them and leave that for a time before we put four-way stop signs out,” Pedigo explained.
The first public sign of the traffic control change was announced by the town on Wednesday on its Facebook page when viewers were told the signal lights at Main Street and Randolph Avenue would be flashing indicating a four-way stop until further notice.
More such notifications are likely in the offing as the town moves closer to making the permanent change.
The idea of returning the downtown roadways – Main Street and Third Street – to two-way traffic has been around for a while and has been the subject of studies by consultants in the past.
The prompt to look at the change again came recently with the realization that a water line project on West Main Street would necessitate at least a temporary change to two-way traffic on Third Street as motorists maneuver around the water line work. Work that will also cause construction of new sidewalks downtown and possibly a change in parking.
Town Manager Darlene Burcham told council Tuesday that the water line project has gone out for bid, and that bids are due back on Sept. 15.
“We would hope bids come back within budget and we can start that project within the next 45 to 60 days,” Burcham said.
Council’s votes Tuesday came after discussion on speed limits and traffic accident statistics.
Pedigo and Police Chief Jill Neice led the discussion, taking Route 99 as it enters town first.
Neice pointed out that, since 2015, there had been 11 accidents and three injuries at the Route 99 (East Main Street) intersection with Dora Highway.
Pedigo noted the fact that stretch of roadway includes the intersection, a trucking company and soon the mountain bike park.
His recommendation to council is for the town to work with VDOT on reducing the 55-mph speed limit coming into town to 45 mph, then to 35 in the area of the Dora Highway intersection – and prior to motorists reaching the mountain bike park entrance.
He noted that without the reduction in speed, it would be necessary to construct a turn lane into the mountain bike park.
He also explained the current situation – with the speed at 55 dropping to 35 just past the New River Trail terminus at Xaloy Way – would be illegal now.
“You can’t drop 20 mph from 55 to 35. You have to have a 45 mph in there somewhere,” Pedigo said.
Burcham suggested working with VDOT to change the speed limit on Route 99 to 45 mph at the ramp off Exit 94, then to 35 near the Dora Highway intersection.
Neice added that motorists pulling out from Dora Highway or MacFall Hollow now have to immediately drive into 55 mph traffic.
“You really got to gear up to do it,” she said.
The proposed changes on Route 99 heading into Pulaski go along with the need to make changes on Route 11 as well.
Neice said, since 2015, there has been 16 wrecks, six injuries and one fatality on Route 11 at Morehead Lane.
“When you hear about Route 11 and the kind of speeding that’s done out there and the traffic accidents, it might be good to have a common speed throughout the town,” Burcham added.
Pedigo explained that Route 11 is 55 mph as you near the town limits at Morehead Lane where there is a stop light. Up the hill at the Pleasant Hill Drive intersection, the speed reduces to 45.
“Back in the day all you had out there was farmland, but today there is a church and a school. It (speed limit) really should be lowered too,” he said, adding the crossover at Pleasant Hill is like “a cocked gun.”
“It’s a big concern for residents of that area,” Neice added.
“Thirty-five would take care of a lot of issues,” Pedigo added.
Councilman Greg East agreed.
“Thirty-five makes sense, eliminates confusion and is obviously safer. Anything we can do to slow traffic in and out of town I would be in favor of,” he said.
When it was time to make a decision, it was mentioned that Burcham – as town manager – has the authority to make the changes herself. However, Burcham told council she would not consider doing so without the support of council.
Councilman Brooks Dawson asked if anyone had any concerns about two-way traffic on the two streets?
No one responded.
East asked about two-way traffic on Third Street down to the “Y” intersection at Duncan Bridge.
“I think making one street two-way is going to be difficult. Going from one-way to two-way. It would be easier if you just took away all the one-way and went to two-way with everything. The problem area for that is the Duncan Avenue bridge at the triangle. You’re going to need a roundabout there. You’re going to need to take our new sign down so you can have a straight shot going up. If you look at it, it doesn’t align just right. They probably did that on purpose because it was one-way,” Pedigo explained.
East asked how to accomplish two-way on Third Street for the water line work on Main.
“I think we’ve talked about blocking and having a turn there (before the ‘Y’) as a temporary measure, and then we would want a consultant to tell us what would be the best way to move forward there. We say a roundabout, but that may not be the best solution,” Burcham said.
Councilman Michael Reis offered a motion to enact a town-wide 35 mph speed limit unless otherwise posted. That passed unanimously.
Councilman Tyler Clontz offered the motion to make Third Street and Main Street both two-way, and it passed unanimously.